When Mayor Richard Berry took office, the Albuquerque Police Department was the best trained, best funded, best paid, best equipped and best manned department in the city’s history. Three years after Berry assumed office, APD is in a complete meltdown. APD morale is at an all-time low, and police shootings are at a historical high. Police misconduct cases continue to be reported. Experienced police officers are retiring at an alarming rate. The Department of Justice is investigating the department for a pattern of conduct of excessive use of force and deadly force. It is time to replace Chief Ray Schultz and the deputy chiefs.
During Mayor Berry’s term, rank-and-file officers feel under siege by the department’s leadership and have lost faith in top management. Mayor Berry appointed Darren White as chief public safety officer and retained Chief Schultz. The police “take-home car” policy was revoked, then reinstated. White had no supervision and supervised APD and Chief Schultz.
White was given a vote of “no confidence” by the police union and later resigned after intense media scrutiny. Mayor Berry eliminated negotiated salary increases. “Impasse” was declared in police contract negotiations, and police still work under the old contract. Police officers are required to use lapel cameras to record all interactions with citizens, resulting in a personnel policy of institutionalized second-guessing police decisions and actions.
Chief Schultz has made major changes at the police academy affecting management and training and emphasizing “problem solving.” Highly successful traditional methods of training at the academy have been eliminated. Community-based policing has essentially been abandoned. The department has gone from 1,100 sworn officers to fewer than 987, with less than 440 uniformed officers taking calls for service during three shifts. Allegations have surfaced concerning private cell-phone-camera use by high-ranking officials at the home of a deceased civil rights attorney. Accusations of management retaliation against rank-and-file officers are commonplace.
Since Mayor Berry took office, there have been 25 police-officer-involved shootings with 17 fatalities. The credibility and culture of the department is under fire. APD officers involved with the 25 shootings probably responded exactly as they were trained to respond. However, 25 police-officer-involved shootings is excessive and each needs to be investigated case-by-case. Police training is part of the problem and part of the solution.
Some blame the current condition of the department and 25 shootings on a “rush to hire” and lowered admission standards, thereby insulting the men and women who have been hired. It is training and experience that makes a good police officer. Police cadets receive six months of intensive classroom instruction and physical training followed by three months of on-the-job training.
Based on Chief Schultz’s media comments as well as his actions, he does not like the department he has built nor the type of officers he has hired during his tenure. Over the last six years, Chief Schultz has had police recruits trained exactly the way he has wanted them trained. Chief Schultz now says he is recruiting police officers who can problem solve with “more compassion, empathy and the ability to make good decisions.” Chief Schultz with his remarks does a disservice to the department that he built and the officers he hired during his tenure. Ultimately, Chief Schultz decided who became a police officer and decided who stayed.
Mayor Berry and Chief Schultz argue they have made policy changes to address all of APD’s problems. Mayor Berry has failed to make effective personnel changes in APD’s top management to restore credibility and confidence in the police department as a whole. Rank-and-file police deserve a chief and deputy chiefs that back them up, support them and cultivate their trust. Chief Schultz should be removed, and his three deputies replaced so that APD can rebuild and have a new beginning.